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#BookBeginnings The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

Today we’re looking forward to starting the next book in The Bestseller Code 100 challenge, The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-hurwitz

The Silent Wife: A Novel* by A. S. A. Harrison

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

Sadly, this psychological thriller is both A. S. A. (Angela Susan Ann) Harrison’s first and last novel.  She passed away shortly after it came out.

Summary:   The Silent Wife is explores the dynamics of a marriage on the rocks.

First Sentences:

It’s early in September. Jodi Brett is in her kitchen, making dinner.

Discussion:

Wow, what a soft, low key beginning.The first sentence was so brief I added the second.

It does give the when and who right away, because Jodi Brett and her husband Todd are the main characters. The first two sentences may not be much of a hook, but I do like that the author has given us a lot of information with just a few spare words.

What do you think? Would you continue reading?

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Analysis of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Let’s take a look at Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford from a writer’s perspective.

This post contains spoilers.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet* by Jamie Ford

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  In Jamie Ford’s debut novel, main character Henry Lee discovers an artifact that takes him back to Seattle’s Japantown just before the beginning of World War II. He had been friends with a Japanese American girl who was sent to an internment camp with her family and he believes the artifact belongs to her.

Plot

The story moves back and forth between two timelines, one in 1986 and and one in 1942 (with a brief hop to 1945). Jamie Ford deftly intertwines the two until in the end they become one.

Characters

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet has a limited number of characters. The protagonist is Henry Lee, an American of Chinese descent. During the 1942 timeline he befriends Keiko Okabe, a girl of Japanese descent who considers herself to be American and doesn’t speak Japanese. Henry’s father serves as an antagonist. His father came directly from China and has a strong bias against the Japanese because they had invaded China during the World War II. Another antagonist is a bully from school named Chaz. Other characters from that timeline are his friend and protector, Sheldon, and a mentor of sorts, Mrs. Beatty.

In the 1986 timeline, Henry interacts mostly with his son Marty and Marty’s fiancee, Stephanie. Henry had recently lost his wife Ethel, which is in a lot of ways an inciting incident.

Setting

The physical setting is Seattle, shaped by the times. As Karen pointed out in her review, the hotel in the title, Hotel Panama, sets at the interface between Chinatown and the Japanese community. In 1942 few — other than Keiko and Henry — cross the border.

bitter-and-sweet-seattle-setting

Photo via Visualhunt

Discussion

The title is appropriate. It is a bitter tale because of the extreme racial prejudice that drives people apart, but it is also a sweet tale because of the young love that transcends prejudice.

The end the story holds no surprises, but wraps up in a satisfying way. It was a bit disappointing Henry didn’t solve the “mystery” of what happened to Keiko himself. That role fell on future daughter-in-law Stephanie and Marty. Perhaps Jamie Ford didn’t want Henry to seem disloyal to Ethel. In the 1942 timeline, he had been exceedingly brave to be with Keiko so it was surprising he was so passive in 1986, except when viewed in light of the personal cost of his wife’s lingering illness and death.

The historical part of the book is fascinating. I have read other books about the Japanese American Internment and have visited a site of one of the camps near my former workplace in Arizona. I knew some of the things, like that some of the Japanese Americans left the camps to fight in the war, but other details were new. People familiar with the history of the time will probably still enjoy it.

There were a few historical accuracy blips, but mostly from the later timeline. Other reviewers have pointed out that there weren’t computers or CDs in 1986, as mentioned in the hospital scene. It is interesting that the 1942 timeline seemed tighter and more accurate. I must admit I shy away from writing historical fiction because I know I’d find it difficult to remain true to another time. Readers of historical fiction are bound to find and point out those kind of discrepancies.

Overall, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet takes on a difficult topic in a meaningful way. Be prepared to be charmed.

Have you read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford ? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time after the discussion begins.

The next book is number 82. The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison (2013) – Discussion begins July 24, 2017
Genre: Psychological Thriller

#BestsellerCode100: A Reader’s Review of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford is next up on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  This novel is categorized as Historical Fiction.

This post does contain spoilers.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet* by Jamie Ford


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

We’ve now read eighteen of the one hundred books recommended by the computer model in The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers.  Most of these books were of genres that I do not usually read and, to be honest, many of them I did not like.  If it weren’t for the fact that I needed to write a review, I would have set a couple aside without finishing them.  I’m happy to say, though, that Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford does not fall into this category.  I really liked this book!

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is set in one location, Seattle, but in two time periods: 1942-45 and 1986.  Ford obviously knows Seattle well, and his descriptions of Seattle during the WWII years really drew me into the story.  I found those sections of the novel to be the strongest in all areas – settings, characters, dialogue, and plot.  The 1986 sections didn’t feel as strong, and I thought that Ford could have done a better job in conveying the relationship between Henry and his son Marty and also in more fully developing the son’s character.  But it still worked for me, mainly because I could envision the lack of communication and the misunderstandings between father and son.  Also, the fog that seemed to envelop Henry due to the long illness and recent death of his wife Ethel was easily attributed to grief and an intentional device by the author, rather than poor writing.

What’s in a Name?

In Chapter 5 of The Bestseller Code, book titles are discussed:

What’s in a name?  Well for a start, sometimes, ten million dollars.  So it is worth thinking a bit about how to get it right.  Some bestselling titles refer to physical settings.  Cold Mountain.  A Painted House.  Black House.  Shutter Island.  Maine.  We learn something from each of these titles about the prominence and agency of place.

The place in these novels provides the impetus for the story, or it will if the novel is well named and well written.  By the end of such a novel, we will feel an intimacy with the fictional place as though it’s its own voiceless character.

The title Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet describes the Panama Hotel, which acts as a keystone to this story.  As Roberta states in her #BookBeginnings post, the Panama Hotel is mentioned in the very first line of the book. In 1942, the Panama Hotel “stood as a gateway between Seattle’s Chinatown and Nihonmachi, Japantown,” thus setting up one of the main themes of the novel.  Henry Lee, who lives in Chinatown, has been indoctrinated by his father to hate all Japanese, including Japanese-Americans.  And yet he develops a school friendship and eventually a romantic relationship with Keiko Okabe, a second generation Japanese American who resides in Nihonmachi and is removed to an internment camp.  In 1986, items stored by the interned Japanese-Americans, including Keiko’s family, are discovered in the basement of the hotel, and Henry is finally forced to acknowledge his long buried feelings for Keiko. So not only does the title tell us something about the place, but also sets up the tone of the story, bittersweet.

Love’s Bittersweet Memories

Anyone who has had a childhood sweetheart or a lost love will identify with Henry and Keiko.  Like Romeo and Juliet, from the start you know their friendship, and then their romance, is doomed to end tragically.  Yet you hope this story will be different.  Henry will find a way to save Keiko from the internment camp.  Or when the war ends, they will reunite and live happily ever after.  But that doesn’t happen, which makes this story all the more believable.  Both Henry and Keiko move on after the war, finding new loves and creating new lives.  But neither of them forgets their first love and what could have been, had the war and Henry’s father not intervened.  Ultimately, even though it takes forty-some odd years, there is a happy ending.

Historical Fiction

One of the reasons I love reading Historical Fiction is the opportunity to learn about specific times and places in history.  If the author has done his/her research well, the story line and characters create the opportunity to more fully understand how people were impacted by a specific historical event.  Such is the case with Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.  Other than a brief mention in my high school American History textbook, I’ve never read anything about the internment camps of WWII, nor the details of how the internment of our Japanese-Americans occurred.  I’ve read that German-Americans were stigmatized and targeted during WWI, similar to the experience of the Japanese-Americans, although internment camps were not part of the equation for them.  I always found it interesting that many German immigrants and first generation German-Americans enlisted to fight in WWI, both as a way to protect their families at home in the States and also to prove their loyalties as Americans.  I was unaware that the Japanese-Americans did the same thing during WWII, even though they and their families were placed in the internment camps. Can you imagine volunteering to fight in a war for the country that had removed you and your family from your home, forcing you to leave behind all but a few meager possessions, and placed you in a internment camp where you were surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards?

Even though most of us in the United States are descended from immigrants, within a couple of generations we lose the memories and stories of what life is like as an immigrant.  We come to believe that our outlook on life, our day-to-day experiences as Americans, are the norm.  It’s good and even necessary to read books like Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet in order to remind ourselves of the challenges and prejudices immigrants face every day, even today.  Especially with the insular political climate of today, we need more books like this, books that allow us to view life from the eyes of immigrants, our newest Americans. For that reason alone, I would recommend adding Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet to your reading list.  The fact that it’s a bittersweet story with a happy ending is an added bonus.

What did you think of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet?  Have you read any other books about the Japanese-American internment camps?  Do you think books like Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet can help us inculcate a better understanding of our current immigrant population?

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time after the discussion begins.

The next book is number 82. The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison (2013) – Discussion begins July 24, 2017
Genre: Psychological Thriller

#BestsellerCode100: Number 83 Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.

This post does not contain spoilers.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet* by Jamie Ford

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  In Jamie Ford’s debut novel, main character Henry Lee discovers an artifact that takes him back to Seattle’s Japantown just before the beginning of World War II. He had been friends with a Japanese American girl who was sent to an internment camp with her family and he believes the artifact belongs to her.

Have you read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford ? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

Join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford ? Feel free to add a link in the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time after the discussion begins.

The next book is number 82. The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison (2013) – Discussion begins July 24, 2017
Genre: Psychological Thriller

#BestsellerCode100: A Readers’s Review of A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler is next up on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge. This novel is categorized as Literary Fiction and was nominated for the Booker Prize.

This post contains spoilers.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

A Spool of Blue Thread is the latest novel (and possibly the last, according to a recent interview) by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Tyler.  In  looking over the list of twenty books she has written, I was surprised to discover that I had not read any of them.  How is that possible, since all of the titles sound so familiar? Literary fiction is not my usual reading choice, though, so that likely explains it.  And I’ve never been one to pick up a book just because it’s popular or on the bestseller shelf.  A Spool of Blue Thread, therefore, is my introduction to Anne Tyler and her character-driven novels.

The Wrong Title

First off, let me state that the book has the wrong title.  While blue is definitely a color that is mentioned throughout the book, the spool of blue thread is a very small part of the book.  Instead, the house that Junior Whitshank built for a client and eventually bought for his family’s residence is an integral part of the story – it could even be considered one of the characters – and so the book might more aptly be titled “The House on Bouton Road.”

Character Driven

Tyler does a nice job of fleshing out her characters, revealing both strengths and foibles through their interactions with family members.  As in many families, birth order determines the characters’ actions and family dynamics.  The opening chapter is devoted to Denny, the youngest child until the family quasi-adopts the younger Stem. Denny’s prickly demeanor, his obstinacy and anger, and the way he distances himself from the family, sometimes disappearing for years at a time with no contact, create issues for the family throughout the book.  His storyline is the nearest thing to an actual plot and resolution that I could find.

Family Stories

As Roberta states in her Writer’s Analysis, the Whitshank family has two stories that they tell and retell.  The family tells these stories with pride, as they show that family members acquired things (or people) they wanted by working patiently to those ends.  But the stories also reveal that these things were acquired through stealth and possible chicanery, and maybe even some amount of lying and backstabbing on the part of Merritt concerning her best friend’s fiance.

One story that is not part of the family lore is how Linnie Mae and Junior met and eventually married.  At the beginning of the chapter that reveals their relationship, it appears that Junior holds all the power and Linnie Mae is his under-aged victim, but by the end of the chapter it is obvious that Linnie Mae is just as intentional and devious as Junior.  Eventually Junior realizes that he’s been the unwitting “victim” of Linnie Mae’s designs to leave her hometown and get married and that Linnie Mae is not the gullible and naive young girl she seemed to be.  I enjoyed this back story of Junior and Linnie Mae as it revealed the quiet power that the matriarch of the Whitshanks had and showed that daughter Merritt’s actions in acquiring her husband might not be totally due to traits she had inherited from her father, but possibly also from her mother.

Why Read Literary Fiction?

As I previously stated, literary fiction is not my normal choice of reading material.  I prefer a book with a well-crafted plot and a satisfying resolution, a book that takes me somewhere I’ve never been and allows me to experience something I’m not likely to do myself.  But Roberta and I have noticed that whenever we read a book classified as literary fiction, we end up discussing family situations and family dynamics from our youth.  A Spool of Blue Thread was no exception.  Roberta’s family took in “strays” when she was a child, as did my husband’s family, and my family had a member who was “farmed out” as a teenager.  Obviously these books, whether we like them or not, are providing us with food for thought and topics for discussion.  Maybe that’s the point of literary fiction – not to take you to some new place, but to take you back to an old place or time in your life and allow you to see it from a fresh perspective.

Are you a fan of Anne Tyler? Do you have a favorite Anne Tyler book that you would recommend, one that would give me a better understanding as to why her books are so popular?

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 83. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (2009) – Discussion begins July 10, 2017.

#BookBeginnings Hotel On The Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Today we’re starting the next book in The Bestseller Code 100 challengeHotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford for Book Beginnings on Fridays. Our discussion begins on Monday, July 10, 2017.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-jamie-ford

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  In Jamie Ford’s debut novel, main character Henry Lee discovers an artifact that takes him back to Seattle’s Japantown just before the beginning of World War II. He had been friends with a Japanese American girl who was sent to an internment camp with her family and he believes the artifact belongs to her.

First Sentence:

Old Henry Lee stood transfixed by all the commotion at the Panama Hotel

Discussion:

For some reason this novel sounds very familiar to me, but I don’t think I’ve read it. I have read something similar about young friends separated when soldiers rounded up Japanese Americans and sent them to internment camps. In that book, the Japanese family had a farm that grew strawberries. Anyone recognize it?

The first sentence didn’t excite me much. Initially, I wasn’t sure whether the Panama Hotel was actually in Panama or somewhere else (it’s in Seattle). I was also put off by the use of the word old, which seemed simultaneously ambiguous and insulting. Imagine my dismay when in the next paragraph the author uses the word “old” four times, although in different contexts.

“The old Seattle landmark was a place he’d visited twice in his lifetime. First when he was only twelve years old, way back in 1942 — The war years” he liked to call them. Even then the old bachelor hotel had stood as a gateway between Seattle’s Chinatown and Nihonmachi, Japantown. Two outposts of an old-world conflict — where Chinese and Japanese immigrants rarely spoke to each other, while their American-born children often played kick the can in the streets together. “

Have you read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet?  Does the first line entice you to keep reading?

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion for The Bestseller Code Reading Challenge, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time after the discussion begins.

The next book is number 82. The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison (2013) – Discussion begins July 24, 2017
Genre: Psychological Thriller

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Analysis of A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Today let’s take a look at A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler from a writer’s perspective (the discussion started here).

This post contains some big spoilers.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  This novel follows the lives of a Baltimore couple, Red and Abby Whitshank, and their family.

It is literary fiction and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2015.

Characters

Anne Tyler is known for her character-driven fiction, and there’s plenty of evidence of her forte in this novel.

She introduces the main characters in the first sentence.

Late one July evening in 1994, Red and Abby Whitshank had a phone call from their son Denny.

It’s pretty clear that these three share main character status, rather than having a single protagonist. You could argue that Abby was the main character, but (spoiler alert) little of her back story is given compared to Red’s, and she dies before the end. Red isn’t a clear protagonist, either. If you had to choose only one, you could make a reasonable case for Denny, although it is often his absence that has the biggest impact on the family. He is also the character who has grown and changed the most by the end of the book.

Dialogue

Because she has won the Pulitzer Prize and because this is her twentieth novel, we’d expect that Anne Tyler’s dialogue would be superb.  That’s why it was surprising to find a glaring example of “maid and butler” dialogue on page 4. (As Brandon Sanderson explains, Maid and butler dialogue occurs when characters chat about details they would already know solely as a way to inform the reader. ) Abby speaks first and Red answers.

“Where was he calling from?”

“How do I know where he is calling from? He doesn’t have a fixed address, hasn’t been in touch all summer, already changed jobs twice that we know of and probably more that we don’t know of …”

Obviously Abby already knows everything that Red says, except whether Denny had mentioned where he was calling from.

The whole thing could be prevented by lopping off all but the first sentence.

“How do I know where he is calling from? He doesn’t have a fixed address, hasn’t been in touch all summer, already changed jobs twice that we know of and probably more that we don’t know of …”

Seeing this mistake in the light of the otherwise sparkling dialogue is kind of endearing.

Setting

With the exception of a trip to the beach, most of the action takes place in the family home in Baltimore. The house was built by Red’s father Junior. It is so central to the story that it becomes like another character.

 

Themes

Themes are important aspects of literary fiction. In A Spool of Blue Thread, the family has two stories that they tell and retell. Both are about a family member who waits patiently to obtain what he or she desires. In the first story Junior builds his dream house for the Brill family and then after a number of years convinces the Brills to sell it to him. The same thing happens when Merrick steals her friend’s fiance, Trey.  After she marries him, she realizes he wasn’t much of a catch. In a story that isn’t part of the family’s storytelling tradition, Linnie waits five years, until she is eighteen, before she leaves her family to find Junior.  (Perhaps that story isn’t repeated because Junior broke the law when they became lovers when Linnie was thirteen.)

Another theme is the women are the ones who choose their men in relationships. One of the family stories reveals that Merrick chose Trey, even though he was engaged to her friend. Once she decided, she single-mindedly won him over.  Abby chose Red over Dane when she spotted Red counting tree rings. In the earlier generation, Linnie decided that she wanted Junior, at a great cost to herself and largely against his wishes.

Plot

The plot is not linear, but goes back and forth in time.  In the conversation between Anna Quindlen and Anne Tyler in the back of the book, Anne reveals she intended to keep writing the stories of the family’s ancestors, traveling back through the ages. Eventually she grew tired of the ancestors, however, so she stopped with Linnie and Junior.

She also reveals that she is “hopeless with plots.” She lets her characters tell their stories.

Discussion

If you enjoy character-rich literary fiction about family relationships, this novel is for you. It is as warm and comfortable as a hand knit sweater.

The complex dynamics between characters feel realistic. The black sheep son, the closely-guarded family secrets, the conflicts, and the struggles of the children wondering how to best help their aging parents will resonate with many people. For example,  Junior’s battle with Linnie over what color to paint the porch swing is the kind of trivial conflict that emerges from deeper power struggles that are so typical for many couples.

Like a hand knit sweater, the novel does have a few flaws. The plot was the weakest part of the book. The extensive backstory of Linnie and Junior’s relationship seemed unnecessary and out of place, although to be fair it did add to the themes. The book would have been stronger if those sections had been condensed or even left out entirely.

Overall, A Spool of Blue Thread is the kind of novel you can wrap yourself up in on a rainy day.

Have you read A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

You can also join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time after the discussion starts.

The next book is number 83. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (2009) – Discussion begins July 10, 2017.

#BestsellerCode100: Number 84 A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listA Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler.

This post does not contain spoilers.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  This novel follows the lives of Baltimore residents Red and Abby Whitshank and their four children.

It is literary fiction and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2015.

Have you read A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler?

We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler? Feel free to add a link to your review here.

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time after the discussion begins.

The next book is number 83. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (2009) – Discussion begins July 10, 2017.

#BookBeginnings A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

It’s time to start the next book in The Bestseller Code 100 challenge, A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-hurwitz

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Anne Tyler’s novel follows the lives of a Baltimore family, Red and Abby Whitshank, and their four children.

It is literary fiction and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2015.

First Sentence:

Late one July evening in 1994, Red and Abby Whitshank had a phone call from their son Denny.

Discussion:

Someone recently told me that a novel should reveal who, what, when and where early in the first scene. Anne Tyler introduces who and when in the first sentence.

What do you think? Would you read a book that didn’t introduce everything right away? Do you think different genres might have different rules, such as mysteries giving less away than historical fiction? Do you know any examples where the author waited past the first scene to reveal setting, time, or a main character? Did it work for you?

Does this first line entice you to keep reading?

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Analysis of The Klone and I by Danielle Steel

Let’s take a look at our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Klone and I by Danielle Steel, from a writer’s perspective.

This post is likely to contain spoilers.

 

Danielle Steel’s The Klone and I*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: When her husband of thirteen years leaves, Stephanie isn’t ready for the dating world. That is, until she meets someone during a spontaneous trip to Paris. Has she finally found her match or more than her match?

This is one of the oldest books on The Bestseller Code challenge list, published in 1998.

Labelled as a high-tech love story, The Klone and I is a mix of humor and romance.

 

Characters

Compared to our previous book by John Sandford, this book has a paucity of characters. The main character is Stephanie. She lives with her two kids, Charlotte and Sam. Her ex-husband Roger and his new wife Helena (Stephanie calls her Miss Bimbo at first), pop into the story when they take the kids. Otherwise, Stephanie spends time with her boyfriend Peter Baker or his bionic clone Paul.

Although Paul’s name is intentionally similar to Peter’s because he is Peter’s clone, the similarity between the two names was confusing at times.

Dialogue

Because the author writes the story in the first person point of view, much of the dialogue is internal. For the first 100 pages or so, the regular dialogue is well-written and witty. Take this example where the dialogue goes back and forth like a tennis ball at a tennis match while the characters discuss playing tennis. Brilliant.

…”we’re playing tennis with him tomorrow.”

“What?” Charlotte shrieked at me as I tucked Sam and the dog in, and she followed me into my bedroom, where I’d almost forgotten she was still sleeping with me. “I hate tennis.”

“You do not. You played all day yesterday.” My point. But only for an instant. She was quicker.

“That was different. That was with kids. Mom, he’s so ancient, he’ll probably have a heart attack and die on the court.” She sounded hopeful.

After 100 pages, the writer’s tone changes with the introduction of the clone.

“I have a million things to do today, and I haven’t finished the paper,” I said sternly, as through that would dissuade him. Ever since Roger left, I had promised myself I would wear makeup every day and keep abreast of the news.

“It’s all the same crap that happens every day, every week,” he assured me unmoved. “People killing each other, people dying, guys making home runs and touchdowns, stock prices going up and down like yo-yos. So what? Who cares?”

By the way, Stephanie’s efforts to improve herself after her husband leaves are mentioned numerous times throughout.

 

Public domain photo via VisualHunt

 

Setting

Most of the book is set in an apartment in New York, with one spontaneous trip to Paris, and one summer vacation at East Hampton. Of those, only Paris sparkles, perhaps because Danielle Steel actually lives there for part of the year.

Discussion/Review

Before this challenge I had never read a Danielle Steel novel, but there’s always a pile of them at the friends of the library used book sales so I assumed she’s popular. On the other hand, the number of 1 and 2 star reviews for this title on GoodReads suggested not many people liked this one. I didn’t know what to think.

The first 100 pages of the novel were enjoyable to me. I read through them quickly, and laughed out loud a few times. It felt like a close BFF sharing the pain of the break up of her marriage and the pitfalls of dating while laughing in the face of adversity. Then the main character, Stephanie, meets a respectable man named Peter Baker in romantic Paris and everything falls into place. It’s a sweet, relatable story so far, but my writer’s mind is waiting for the mid-point reversal (the place where the writer surprises the reader with a twist to the story).

Kaboom! The reversal drops in the title character, a clone named Paul Klone who wears a “one piece leopard spandex jumpsuit” and does flips in bed. The farce starts when Stephanie doesn’t realize that Paul isn’t Peter. From there, the believability flounders to the point where the reader begins to laugh at the author instead of with her. What happened?

Looking into the background of the book, I discovered Danielle Steel’s son Nick Traina died September 20, 1997, the year before The Klone and I came out in 1998.  It’s probably not a coincidence this book isn’t her best.

Have you read The Klone and I by Danielle Steel? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 84. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (2015) – Discussion begins June 26, 2017
Literary Fiction – nominated for Booker Prize

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